Montana Audubon Center - March 2018
Member Appreciation Event: April 8th
Earth Day Celebration: April 21st
Sip & Sketch Nature Journaling
Image courtesy of Dawn Nelson

Journaling and sketching about experiences in nature has a grand tradition. It's a tool for sharpening observation, recording for posterity, and engaging  th e right brain -- not to mention an incentive for spending time in nature in  the  first place!

We are happy to announce a new
adult program at the Center to introduce and increase skills in nature journaling--and to enjoy a few drinks with friends in the process!

Our in-house artist, Dawn Nelson, will teach the basics of drawing plants in a two-part series. Part 1, offered in both March and April, will be an indoor program covering tips and techniques: c hoose from the center's collection of dried specimens or from early spring plants to find the perfect inspiration. Part 2, in May, will focus on use of those techniques in the field . Come sip some wine, start your artist sketchbook, and create wonderful plant drawings.  All levels welcome!

Part 1 (indoor): March 24 or April 14 from 4 - 6pm
Part 2 (outdoor): May 12 from 4 - 6pm

Fee is $30 (10% discount for Members) per program, includes two gla sses of wine. Registration required. To register click here or contact the Center: 406.294.5099 or

Participants should bring their own supplies (a journal, graphite pencils, watercolor pencils, brushes, erasers, and pencil sharpener).

Dawn Nelson is a fine artist, a certified science illustrator, and an Audubon teacher naturalist. Her work has been shown in several art exhibits in Montana and Washington, including a beautiful "showy milkweed" drawing included in a recent  coloring book for the Yellowstone Art Museum in Billings.

Program Spotlight:  Audubon Naturalists  in the Schools (ANTS)

4th graders get their birding on in January
The Audubon Naturalists in the Schools program, or fondly called "ANTS", makes up the bulk of our school-year education programming. Begun 10 years ago as a way to offer nature education to under-served elementary sch ool students, the ANTS program now reaches nearly every 4th grade class in Bi llin gs, and some 3rd and 5th grade classes as well. Each class that participates comes to the Center or a loc al natural area for three full-day field trips--one in each of Fall, Winter, and Spring--and Audubon staff visit those same classes for four one-hour class visits to prepare students for the field trips. All lessons are built around grade-level academic standards, industry best practices, and connection to Montana's Indian Education for All.

What do the students do? Here's a view into the 4th grade program.

In the Fall, students learn the importance of sensory observation and personal exploration. They also receive a journal that they use throughout the year. During their first field trip, students use all five senses to explore and journal about native plants and their uses. The rest of the day is filled with a nature walk to the Yellowstone River, quiet journaling in their personal "sit-spot," and an introduction to native games. 

When students attend the w inter field trip, they engage with animal mounts to examine and hypothesize about structural adaptations. They go birding, learn local bird calls, and contribute their own bird list to, while learning about the importance of citizen science. Finally, they track local animals around the Center, identifying tracks and taking measurements. 

In the spring, students help with a restoration project. They visit the Yellowstone River and their sit-spot, and play native games. They also go  canoeing -- a favorite activity -- which is tied to education about the physics of waves.

We value our partnership with elementary schools, which helps us connect more than 1500 students with their local landscape and instill excitement about nature. We are currently working with 77 classes for the 2017-2018 school year and are looking to add even more classes for the next school year!
Phenology Feature:  Winter Shrubs

Skunkbush Sumac: winter buds just waiting for Spring
Shrubs are woody, multi-stemmed plants. In riparian zones (like those near the Center!) they grow into dense thickets that provide food and shelter for wildlife. Mo ntana is still in the clutches of winter but daylight has now exceeded 10 hours; the signal for plants to start waking up. 

While the deciduous shrubs are still bare of leaves and flowers, this is a great time of year to observe their other features.  Take this guide with you to any patch of woods along the river, including Norm's Island, and see how many of these you can find!

The very red and smooth-barked red-osier dogwood can reach nearly 10 feet. Dogwood has an opposite stem structure; the branches coming out of the same nodes along the stem. 

Two other red-barked shrubs have an alternate stem structure; their branches emerge from nodes that spiral along the stem. The woods rose can reach 4-6 feet., the branches have thorns and red berry-like fruit. The chokecherry , which can reach more than 19 feet., has reddish-brown bark covered in distinctive white spots (lenticels).

The invasive, non-native buckthorn can reach 30 feet. and  is sometimes mistaken for chokecherry. It also has an alternate stem structure but the grey bark has thorns at the tips of its branches. The dark berries left on the buckthorn well into winter are not edible. 

The buffaloberry is a native shrub with an opposite stem structure that rarely reaches 20 feet. The silvery branches have thorns at the tips, and small, whitish buds. The little red berries are edible and rarely remain on the shrub for long.

The common snowberry can reach 5 feet.; with grey stems and brown twigs an
d an opposite stem structure. The white berries, now turning black and clustered at the ends of the branches, are not edible.

Skunkbush sumac is a compact shrub that can grow to 6 feet. It has an alternate stem structure and the mature bark is grey. The twigs are fuzzy and may be orange/red in color. The plant has a distinctive odor and produces a tight cluster of waxy/sticky reddish berries. A similar looking plant is the golden currant . The currant can reach 10 feet. in height and the branches are smooth, grey and alternating. The red (sometimes black) berries of the currant are very tasty.
Upcoming Programs
This could be you!

Get ready for Spring!

More info and registration on our  program pagePrograms marked with an * require pre-registration.

For Adults
March 3rd, 10am: Coffee Walk with a Naturalist -- It's in the Clouds!  

March 24th or April 14th, 4-6pm: Sip & Sketch Nature Journaling (Part I)*

April 7th, 10am: Coffee Walk with a Naturalist -- Raptors: Keys to ID

March 20th - May 22nd: Montana Master Naturalist 

For Kids
April 4 - May 23rd, 3:30-5:30:  Afterschool Adventures in Nature*

March 8th - 29th, Thursdays 9am-12:30pm: Homeschool Science -- What's Up? The Sky!*

March 28th & 29th, April 2nd & 9th (SD2 days off), 8am-3pm: Break Camps*

Every Tuesday, 10-11am:  Nature Nuts

For Everyone
March 4, 11:30 - 2:30 Open House

March 10, 8-9:30am: Saturday Morning  Bird Stroll

March 18, 3-4:30pm: Weekend Wonders Family Program -- Marching in Like a Lion: Wind and Weather

April 7th, 11:30 - 2:30:  Open House

April 14th, 8-9:30am: Saturday Morning Bird Stroll

April 15th, 3-4:30pm: Weekend Wonders Family Program  -- Signs of Spring!


The best and deepest of our thanks to the following individuals and organizations for donations to the Montana Audubon Center in January and February, including for our Yurt Fund!

PacificSource Healthy Communities
male and female house finch in the snow
Amanda and Curt Wilcox
Jamille Winrow
Sheila Hancock McCay and Kelly Coleman
Jim and Lillian Hartung
Erica Ramsey
Eric Schmidt
Helen and Peter Cummins
John Schaack
Andy Bottman
Roseanne Plath
Brian and Molly Harrington
Precious McKenzie-Stearns and William Stearns
Montana Music Institute
Carolyn and Morgan Sevier
Dixie Garfield
Mark and Hannah Dunford
Benjamin and Lindsey Beasley
Mark and Laura Nicholson
Dovetail Designs and Millwork, Inc
Hanson Chemical
Sarah and John Chatwood
Lisa and Bryan Pepper
Anna and Caleb Rogers
Kristin Prewitt and Micah Puyear
Natalie Thompson
Michael and Catherine Lynch
Carolyn Bermes
Tristan and Kylie Tiller
Ryan and Shannon Westerman
Diane Kersten
Sondra Daly
Eugene and Angelen Parrish
Monica Hill
Carol and Charles Ward
Catherine Young
Ty and Ashley Heppner
Robert Mackin and Elizabeth Adcock
Steve McConnell
Asjah Akerstrom
Travis May
Nathan and Amber Zito
Montana Audubon Center
Like us on Facebook